Now I'm not going to say it's a bad thing when your leading receiver is your running back. However, unless you're the San Diego Chargers, it doesn't say much when your running back is your biggest receiving threat. While Alex Smith did put up a few quality passing games, 2006 was more of a transition year for the receiving corp. Antonio Bryant and Vernon Davis were brought in to be big play threats. Injuries and suspensions kept the big play threat from fully developing. The off season will likely see the addition of another receiver or two, but in the meantime, let's look at the year just completed. For the receivers with very little playing time, I'll have a more general review.
Antonio Bryant - 2006 Stats: 40 receptions, 733 yards, 3 TDs
The Good: Bryant didn't match his 2005 numbers, but his first 2 games were quite impressive (4 for 114 and 4 for 131 with 1 TD). After that, while his numbers weren't gaudy, Bryant did manage to break a big play every couple of weeks. Also, coming in he had always been considered an attitude problem and that didn't seem to be an issue very much this year
The Bad: Do we start with the DUI/suspension or that run of 2 or fewer receptions in 6 of 7 games? Bryant was brought in to be the man and after week 2 he simply didn't live up to the billing. Maybe the #81 jersey is bad luck and should be retired into the toilet?
2006 Grade: C-: He showed game breaking ability, but severely under-performed. He contained the attitude issues, but that did not result in better play. It will be interesting to see what kind of receiver is added this off season. A Stallworth or Jarrett could turn Bryant into the optimal #2, but we'll see I guess.
Arnaz Battle - 2006 Stats: 59 receptions, 686 yards 3 TDs, 1 fumble
The Good: Battle's numbers have improved dramatically each season and he continued this season, even managing to finish strong. Additionally, his QB background has developed him into a unique weapon that keeps defenses on the field (particularly when Michael Robinson is ALSO on the field). He has turned into a very solid possession receiver.
The Bad: He had a fumble issue that hopefully will resolve itself. Additionally, he disappeared at times, particularly against Minnesota and Green Bay. Consistency is the one area he needs to improve most.
2006 Grade: B - As a big play threat, he's relatively non-existent and would probably get a D. However, as a possession receiver he is coming into his own. Even with the addition of a new receiver this off season, I think Battle will be a key possession specialist for this team next year and beyond.
Vernon Davis - 2006 Stats: 20 receptions, 265 yards 3 TDs, 1 fumble
The Good: The big man (I simply can't call him VD!) showed flashes of brilliance breaking tackles, taking big hits and displaying game-breaking speed in the secondary. In spite of the injury, Davis bounced back to punish defenders and get in the end zone. Additionally, he brings a confidence and cockiness that the team needs going forward.
The Bad: Davis definitely looked the part of a rookie with 3 games of no receptions and 2 games of one reception. Confidence is welcome, but you have to back it up with performance on the field.
2006 Grade: C+ - Davis didn't put up huge numbers, but the talent is clearly there. I think next year he breaks through and becomes the team's biggest threat and also faces the most double teams.
Eric Johnson - 2006 Stats: 34 receptions, 292 yards 2 TDs
2006 Grade: C- - I think it's pretty clear that Eric Johnson is in Nolan's doghouse simply because of the injury issue. Personally, I think anybody who catches 82 balls in a season clearly has the talent to help and I think he could help somebody in free agency. It's a shame because I will always think running 2 TE sets with Johnson and Davis could produce some filthy results.
Bryan Gilmore - 2006 Stats: 8 receptions, 150 yards 1 TD
2006 Grade: D+ - While Gilmore didn't make a huge impact, he showed signs of being a big play threat, primarily that 75 yard reception against Philly. Additionally, Gilmore was used in reverses somewhat successfully. It would be easiest to simply give Gilmore an incomplete, but he's been in the league too long (6 years) to get by with an incomplete.
Taylor Jacobs - 2006 Stats: 4 receptions, 29 yards
2006 Grade: F - Jacobs is simply too talented to be this unproductive. A majority of his "production" came after Bryant was suspended, but even then he couldn't break through. Maybe he should just go become WR coach for Spurrier at South Carolina.
Delanie Walker - 2006 Stats: 2 receptions, 30 yards
2006 Grade: Incomplete - As a rookie out of UTEP, Walker was inactive for 9 of the regular season games. If the team lets Eric Johnson walk, Walker could see an increase in playing time.
2006 Grade: Incomplete - Brandon Williams was strictly a return man, although he was technically listed as a WR on the team's depth chart. I'm really not sure what to think of the youngster, considering Maurice Hicks seemed to provide more spark in the return game. What does everyone else think of Williams?
So feel free to provide your thoughts or grades on the 2006 season and what the future may hold for our receiving corp.